As the partial government shutdown starts its fourth week, our staff at Children’s Friend are concerned with the potential impact on the families we serve.
Recently the administration in Washington announced they found a way to continue funding (through February) the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. There is one caveat, the payouts for the 39 million people enrolled have to occur earlier than usual. For most, this is weeks sooner than they typically receive their benefits. This early distribution of payments will keep grocery stores extra busy for the short term, however, it can cause a void for some families as they wait longer for the following month’s payout. Thus may lead to an increase in demand for the local food pantries. Disruption of support, in any form, can harm low-income vulnerable households. Often they turn to non-profit safety net programs.
The shutdown causes another problem for families. They may find their local retail grocers are unable to renew their license to accept SNAP payments. New local grocers or changes in business ownership will also be impacted because departments handling applications within the Department of Agriculture are on furlough.
I should note, SNAP benefits are appropriated by Congress. This probably explains why funding has never run out. This food stamp program has a $3 billion reserve, enough to cover two-thirds of the $4.8 billion of payouts each month. This should provide some comfort if by chance the government shutdown continues.